We decided that in order to save time and the cost of a hotel room we would travel through the night from Flores to Guatemala City and then connect on to Antigua. We had spent enough time already on the bus during the days and didn’t want to use up another day on the bus for the 9 hour trip.
We booked a 10pm First Class bus from Santa Elena at the travel agency in our hotel lobby. I thought it was a great deal since it was $3.50 less than what the large travel agency of Flores sold the trip for. It was only 220 Quetzales ($26) from our hotel to Antigua. I had been told this first class bus was ideal since it did not stop in every little town on the way to Guatemala City. We arrived at the bus station and noticed two buses there. Both buses looked much more comfortable than the one we had traveled on to get to Flores. One however was definitely a first class bus while the other was a step down. Upon asking which bus was ours we were informed it was not the nicer of the two buses.
I asked the man who sold us the tickets why we weren’t on the nicer bus and he informed us that “They are both the same.”
I gave my luggage to the driver who placed it under the bus. I was going to need as much room as possible so that I could get a good night sleep. My kids and I mounted the steps of the bus to find our reserved seats. At least this bus had a washroom on it, even if it only consisted of an open pit toilet.
Jaeden and I were assigned to sit together while Alyssa’s seat was on the opposite side of the aisle from us and back a row. Located next to Alyssa was a very large lady that was not only taking up her own seat, but she was also occupying half of Alyssa’s seat. Alyssa looked over at me with the look in her eyes that said, “I have to sit here?”. I smiled to confirm that it was indeed her seat as she squeezed into place.
I tried to get comfortable in my seat, reclining my chair into a makeshift bed. It was very uncomfortable. At this point I was reminded of why I hate overnight flights. I just have a hard time sleeping in a half vertical position. Over the course of the next 7 hours I tried virtually every possible sleeping position without much luck. I think I may have slept 3 or 4 times for 10 minutes but I was not able to get into a deep sleep.
Contrary to what I was told the bus bumped along around sharp corners and made at least twenty short stops along the way to pick up or drop off passengers on the dark road. We got rather cold as the air conditioning blasted fresh air into the bus. Unfortunately my sweater was locked up in the underside of the bus. Next time I would have to keep it close by.
I looked back at my daughter Alyssa to see how she was doing. She was crumpled up in a ball with her feet on her seat and sweater wrapped over her knees. The lady next to her was sound asleep, snoring and sliding over more and more until Alyssa was pushed into her aisle side armrest. She tried pushing the lady over but the large lady just kept on snoring.
Around 2am the driver started playing some of his music on the bus speakers, probably to keep himself awake. This however kept me up and I knew any further effort to sleep would be futile. Around 4am I gave in to the fact that I was not going to sleep and sat upright and looked out the windows as it started to get lighter outside.
We arrived at the Guatemala City bus station around 5am, one hour before our shuttle for Antigua was scheduled to arrive. We disembarked from the bus to the noise of early morning locals outside our bus. They yelled, “Taxi Amigo? Antigua? Aeropuerto?” Ignoring them did not seem to help. They hovered around me and the kids as we grabbed our luggage.
Finally I said to one of the drivers, “I already have a prepaid ticket.” With that they moved on and hovered around other passengers offering to give them a ride. We grabbed our bags and headed into the bus station. We were all exhausted and had an hour to wait. Looking around we noticed a bunch of soft couch chairs. The problem is that they looked like they were 20 years old and had never been washed. They were all dirty and stained. Soft chairs are comfy but if not cleaned they don’t make a very appealing seat. After 10 minutes we sat down on the edge of one couch trying hard not to touch it yet too tired to stand and wait.
The bus station at 5am in Guatemala City is a very interesting place to people watch. There were tourists waiting for buses and local residents preparing for long trips. One family came in with large 6 foot wide bundles wrapped in tarps and netting. As they dropped the bundles on the floor it sounded as if these bundles contained rain-sticks as the sound of what seemed like dry beans on bamboo churned inside the wrapping.
Finally around 6am our shuttle driver summoned us from inside the station. He had a 13 passenger minivan and there were 13 of us that had to squeeze inside as we tossed our gear into a large pile in the back. I asked the other passengers where they came from and was told, “We just arrived a few minutes ago on the 11pm bus from Flores.”
Had I known there was a later bus with a better connection I would definitely have taken it!
The ride to Antigua was about 45 minutes long. We had a few ideas from our guidebook on where to stay but as we took the trip I got talking to other English speaking tourists on our shuttle bus. As I got talking I found out from another traveler the name of a hotel he had stayed in a week earlier. With this recommendation of a clean family run place with a TV and internet connection I thought we would give it a try as opposed to the other choices in my Lonely Planet guidebook. I wanted a clean, quiet, safe place to stay in a central location. I was advised it was also a safe place to leave your belongings without having things disappear.
We dragged ourselves a few blocks to Hotel
Posada San Vicente around 6:45am and the door was closed. We pushed the buzzer hoping someone would answer the door. Within a moment a voice came on the intercom saying something in Spanish. I replied that we were looking for a place to stay. Within a minute a sweet lady came to the door and let us in. We walked up their driveway, past a courtyard and to a room with three single beds that was shown to us. We were told that the room would be 150 Quetzales per person per night. I explained that we were looking to stay 5 or 6 nights and that the person on our shuttle bus had mentioned the price was 100 Quetzales per person. She agreed to new price.
Within seconds we tumbled into the room, each picking a bed. Within minutes we were all sound asleep glad to be at our destination where we would stay for a number of nights.
Getting from Flores to Guatemala City:
Take a Flight $120 US one-way if you can, if not take a First Class Bus $25 US one-way
If Busing: Take the later 11pm bus so you arrive at 6am.
Make sure you can sleep partly vertical or take a daytime bus.